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Y-3 II Ranch

Courtney and Travis Gaved have been on the Y3 II Ranch for nearly 10 years and have managed the ranch for the last four years for the Yanke family. The ranch straddles the Nevada/ Idaho border and includes approximately 11,500 acres of private land and 90,000 acres of federal and Idaho State land.

Within the Plan Area, the ranch operates on the BLM Jackpot and Bear Creek Allotments, which are divided into smaller use areas that are fenced or bound by natural barriers, steep canyons, and cliffs. BLM allotments are managed with a rest rotation management system as part of their allotment management plan (AMP). Private lands include irrigated and native meadow that are used for hay production and winter feeding. Some of the private lands are open for hunting and receive heavy hunting pressure.

Several crested wheatgrass seedings were developed between 1953 and 1969 to improve livestock grazing. Over the decades, sagebrush has reestablished in many of the seedings that today provide increased management flexibility and rest for native rangelands during the early growing season and provide early winter forage. The livestock operation is severely impacted by raven predation during calving. Lower elevations of the Scott Fire in 2007 were converted to halogeton. The Ranch is pursuing solutions to address both of these challenges.

Salmon River Cattlemen’s Association

Salmon River Cattlemen’s Association (SRCA) has approximately 40 members who are livestock producers from northeast Nevada and southern Idaho with livestock operations ranging in size from 10 to 1,400 head. SRCA ownership is based on a total of 7,000 shares of SAGEBRUSH ECOSYSTEM CONSERVATION PLAN Stewardship Alliance of Northeast Elko County 6 stock. Each share enables the owner to run one head during the April 20 to November 1 grazing season under one common brand.

The 332,900-acre Salmon River Allotment is 85 percent public land (276,398 acres) managed by the BLM, and 15 percent private land (56,502 acres) leased by SRCA from the Salmon River Canal Company (99-year lease).

SRCA is a Nevada Corporation but its stockholders are family farms. The six-member Board of Directors hires the Livestock Manager who works with the BLM Range Conservationist to determine annual pasture use dates and rotations, stocking rates, and other objectives based on annual precipitation and forage production conditions. The Manager and three to five cowboys, a fence-builder, and a cook live at the ranch headquarters during the grazing season. Riders check livestock and range conditions continually when livestock are present on the allotment. Livestock owners and additional hands are available for gathering.

The grazing system is primarily a deferred rotation system in several units, which incorporates private rangeland comingled with public land, and fenced private land pastures. The association has an Environmental Stewardship Committee that works with the Board, the Ranch Manager, range consultants, and BLM to advise on grazing management, monitoring, and range improvement projects.

Cottonwood Ranch

Cottonwood Ranch has been family owned and operated in the O’Neil Basin since the 1940’s. Vicki and Agee Smith and the Smith Family are the current managers. The Cottonwood Ranch includes approximately 1,200 acres of private land and three allotments; the 17,000-acre Cottonwood Allotment managed by the BLM, and the 15,000- acre Cottonwood Creek and Goat Creek Allotments managed by USFS. The private lands are predominantly irrigated and native meadows. The mid-elevation landscape is sagebrush/grassland; mountain shrub, aspen, curl-leaf mountain mahogany, and conifers characterize upper elevations.

Allotment boundaries were fenced in the mid-1950s. In 1972, the BLM divided the Cottonwood Allotment into four pastures, a rest-rotation grazing system was started, and the upland rangelands started to improve. Riparian areas were still a concern.

The Smiths established the Cottonwood Ranch Holistic Management Team (HMT) in 1995 to initiate a new approach to conflict resolution between livestock grazing on public lands and agency and citizen concerns with riparian conditions. The HMT approach integrates Photo by Agee Smith SAGEBRUSH ECOSYSTEM CONSERVATION PLAN Stewardship Alliance of Northeast Elko County 7 ecological, social, and financial considerations into one plan to meet the goals and objectives of a diverse group of land users. The Cottonwood HMT includes the Cottonwood Ranch family and staff, BLM, USFS, UNCE, NDOW, NRCS, NDF, USFWS, private property groups, area ranchers, neighbors, concerned citizens of northern Nevada and southern Idaho, public land recreationists, and the Elko County Commission. The HMT meets quarterly, before, during, and after the grazing season, to discuss objectives, adjust management, and evaluate the success or problems with the previous year’s grazing plan.

In 1996, the ranch began using managed timing and duration of livestock grazing to initiate shorter grazing periods and to avoid grazing the same area at the same time each year. The Cottonwood Ranch is committed to having riders with the cattle most of the time where one of the rider’s duties is to move cattle off riparian areas, allowing cattle to drink, but not to linger. According to Pat Coffin, BLM fisheries biologist/riparian specialist, a stream survey of Cottonwood Creek during 2011 showed vast improvement in riparian condition indices since timing and duration livestock grazing management was implemented through collaborative resource stewardship (via the HMT process). The riparian improvements documented below on Cottonwood Creek occurred concurrently with a greater than 2-fold increase in cattle stocking rates.

Boies Ranch

The Boies Ranch has been family-owned for generations and is currently managed by Robin and Steve Boies, and their sons and families. Their livestock operation includes more than 12,600 acres of private land, including native and irrigated meadows that are used with approximately 112,200 acres of public lands in the Hubbard/Vineyard Allotment managed by the BLM. The BLM allotment is divided into eight main pastures with three crested wheatgrass seedings at the lower elevation.

From the 1940’s to the mid 1990’s the typical grazing management was early spring use and continued use until late autumn. Private lands were used in the winter. The Hubbard/Vineyard Allotment had few division fences until the 1990’s. In 1996, rest and change in season of use were introduced to the Hubbard/Vineyard pastures which had never been rested during the spring growing season since cattle were introduced in the 1860’s. All October 1979 August 1988 September 2011 SAGEBRUSH ECOSYSTEM CONSERVATION PLAN Stewardship Alliance of Northeast Elko County 8 allotment pastures now receive spring rest either two out of every three years, or two out of every four years.

In 2000, after participating in the Cottonwood Ranch HMT the previous five years, the Boies Ranch started a HMT that included state and federal management agencies. The combination of these two ranch teams led to the formation of the Shoesole Resource Management Team. The Hubbard/Vineyard has used this type of collaborative, consensus based management model for fifteen years. This model is grounded in adaptive management that strives to balance the ecological, economic, and social/cultural bottom line.

BLM riparian specialists conducted a survey of streams within the Hubbard/Vineyard Allotment in 2013. The study documented marked gains in riparian condition index scores thirteen years after grazing management changes were implemented. According to Pat Coffin, BLM fisheries biologist/riparian specialist, “These improvements are directly due to the results of team input and subsequent grazing management implementation.”

Home Ranch

Ruby and Domingo Uhart have owned and operated a 250-300 head cow-calf operation on the Home Ranch in the O’Neil Basin since 2011. The Ranch includes 600 acres of private land at the Home Ranch and 200 acres of private land on Wildcat Creek, north of the Gibbs Ranch that are mostly irrigated and native meadow. Private lands are operated in conjunction with the 18,805-acre Canyon Allotment managed by the BLM. The season of use in the Canyon Allotment is May 1 through November 20. An annual grazing plan is coordinated with the BLM Range Conservationist to set stocking rates and use periods for each of the three allotment pastures, Canyon, Cottonwood, and Black Mountain. A deferred rotation grazing system provides for periodic rest from grazing during the growing season in each pasture.

An 11-acre riparian pasture was created on Salmon Falls Creek following the Black Mountain Fire in 2007. Grazing in the riparian pasture is carefully managed and varies each year. For example, in 2012 it was grazed by 191 cows for twelve days.

The Canyon Pasture is watered from a well and pipeline with two troughs and a storage tank. The Cottonwood Pasture is bordered by Cottonwood Creek and the Home Ranch meadows. Two riparian exclosures along Cottonwood Creek/Salmon Falls River have historically been grazed for seven to ten days each year. Two troughs from the Canyon pipeline and a water gap in Cottonwood Creek are the water sources for the Cottonwood Pasture. A portion of the Badlands Wilderness Study Area is located in the northeast part of the Canyon Allotment. The Black Mountain Pasture borders Salmon Falls River and the Home Ranch. The existing livestock water locations in the Black Mountain Pasture are water gaps in Salmon Falls Creek. The Home Ranch has been a Shoesole Resource Management Group member since 2013.

Twin Meadows Ranch

Janelle and Joe Durant own and manage the largest livestock operation in the O’Neil Basin consisting of three ranches: Twin Meadows Ranch and the Bell Brand Ranches, Gilmer and SAGEBRUSH ECOSYSTEM CONSERVATION PLAN Stewardship Alliance of Northeast Elko County 9 Sun Creek. Collectively, these ranches consist of approximately 10,290 acres of private land that are managed in conjunction with 16,300 acres on the USFS White Elephant and Wilson Creek Allotments, and 102,700 acres of public land managed by the BLM on the East Buckhorn Allotment.

 A rotational grazing strategy using numerous pastures is planned annually through collaboration between the USFS, the BLM, and the Durants to discuss turn-out dates, duration, and Animal Unit Months (AUMs) for each pasture. Upper elevation Forest allotments are generally used for grazing in the late summer through fall. BLM lands are divided into pastures that are used with a rotation grazing plan that incorporates long rest periods for each pasture. Private lands are predominantly irrigated and native meadow. The rangeland is well watered by springs, ephemeral streams, and excavated water catchments in many draws.

Gibbs Ranch

The Gibbs Ranch is a fifth generation family ranching business comprised of several homesteads that date back to the 1880’s. The ranch was acquired by William Gibbs in 1916 from the Truett Land and Livestock Company. The Ranch is currently managed by Lana and Bill Gibbs and Wyatt and Jessica (Gibbs) Mesna. Over

3,900 acres of private land are characterized as irrigated and native meadows and sagebrush/grasslands. The ranch now includes two allotments managed by the BLM, Hot Creek Allotment and Anderson Creek Allotment. The Hot Creek Allotment was the first ranch in Nevada to operate a three pasture rest-rotating grazing system. The Anderson Creek Allotment was acquired in 1996 in conjunction with a BLM/NDOW land transfer and is operated as a four pasture rotation system.

Over the decades, the ranch has made substantial improvements to maintain the productivity and sustainability of their private land and grazing allotments. The Gibbs Ranch conducted an early stream channel stabilization project circa 1950 that successfully restored Mary’s River by constructing check dams that raised the groundwater elevation, stabilized deep headcuts and downcuts, restored the channel base elevation, and reconnected the hydrology between the stream and its floodplain. The Gibbs’ Mary’s River project and other meadow improvements are credited with saving and restoring the ranch meadows that are important for sage-grouse brood rearing. Other improvements include crested wheatgrass seedings (circa 1960), pasture fencing for proper grazing management, spring and riparian exclosures, stockwater ponds, and restoration of Hot Creek Reservoir, an important nesting habitat and stopover habitat for migrating waterfowl.

Winecup Gamble Ranch

James Rogers has been the Winecup Gamble Ranch Manager for the last three years. The Winecup Gamble is the largest ranch in the SANE Plan Area with approximately 257,000 acres of private land and 742,000 acres of public land managed by the BLM on four grazing allotments: HD Allotment, Gamble Individual Allotment, Dairy Valley Allotment, and Pilot Valley Allotment.

A small portion of the ranch sits on the west side of Highway 93 with the majority of the onemillion acres on the east side. The bulk of the ranch is in checkerboard ownership although there are several thousand acres of contiguous private land holdings along the Thousands Springs drainage and in the upper reaches of the Snake Mountain Range. There are hundreds of springs located throughout the ranch with a large majority of them located on private property.

Approximately 15,000 acres of the ranch are irrigated with flood irrigation, sub irrigation, and mechanical methods. Crops grown on the ranch include native hay, alfalfa, oats, sorghum, turnips, and vetch. The diversity of these crops is a major attraction for waterfowl and other wildlife.

Under current management, the ranch has implemented a rotational grazing system across 23 separate pastures. With this plan, cattle rarely remain in any one location or around any water source for longer than 3 weeks. This management is only possible because of the 72 water wells located throughout the property that are used to control cattle distribution and creation of water blocks around springs and seeps that can be managed to keep cattle out when it is time for them to move on. Additional management is being implemented to enhance the benefits of pasture rest in sensitive resource areas.

The California Trail traversed this property nearly 120 years ago. The ruts of the wagon trains still remain and the Ranch is working closely with the public in both preserving this historical feature as well as enhancing the viewing enjoyment.

It is the intent of the Winecup Gamble Ranch to maintain a profitable cattle operation with public lands grazing while stewarding the history, the wildlife, and the landscape. This requires close working relationships and communication with ranch personnel, neighboring ranches, public land agencies, and the public.

Shoesole Resource Management Group

Currently, the Cottonwood Ranch, the Boies Ranch, and the Home Ranch form the Shoesole Holistic Management Group known as Shoesole with participation from the BLM, USFS, UNCE, NDOW, NRCS, NDF, USFWS, neighbors, concerned citizens of northern Nevada and southern Idaho, public land recreationists, and the Elko County Commission (McAdoo, et al. 2004). The Shoesole Holistic Management process involves a consensus-based decision making model that encourages diverse participants to consider the economic, environmental, and social impacts of a decision before it is implemented.


SANE includes biologists, fuels management specialists, range conservationists, conservation planners, and other specialists from public land management and resource agencies with regulatory authority and management responsibility in the Plan Area. The agency specialists, are organized as the SANE Technical Advisory Committee (TAC) to provide the biological, mapping, and range science expertise for the SANE Plan.

SANE Technical Advisory Committee members.

Bureau of Land Management Elko District Office (BLM)
Cam Collins, Biologist
Clay Stott, Range Conservationist
Jeff Moore, Range Conservationist
Tom Reid, Fuels Specialist
Tyson Gripp, Fire Rehabilitation Specialist
Tom Warren, Operations
United States Forest Service (USFS)
Kyra Walton-Reid, Biologist
Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS)
Jaime Jasmine, District Conservationist
Chuck Petersen, Range Management Specialist
US Fish and Wildlife Service
Kenneth Scheffler, Partner’s Biologist Elko
Nevada Department of Wildlife (NDOW)
Kari Huebner, Game Biologist
Connie Lee, Private Lands Coordinator
Steve Foree, Habitat Supervisor
Kevin Netcher, Fisheries Biologist
Mackenzie Jeffress, Diversity Biologist
Pheasants Forever/ Natural Resource’s Conservation Service
Rachelle Peppers
Nevada Division of Forestry (NDF)
Ryan Shane, Resource Management Officer
Nevada Conservation District Program
Doni Bruland
Nevada Cooperative Extension
Kent McAdoo, Natural Resources Specialist

The cattle ranching business within the Plan Area dates back to the 1860’s and the era of cattle barons and open rangeland grazing in Nevada. Completion of the Central Pacific Railroad made it feasible to raise and ship thousands of cattle to meet the large demands for beef in the Comstock, other mining districts, and the California markets.

Post-Civil War private land acquisitions in the Plan Area were made through federal land grant acts, land purchases from the State of Nevada, and purchases from the Central Pacific Railroad. Private lands throughout most of the Plan Area were originally acquired by Jasper Harrell and John Sparks. Harrell ranches ran approximately 30,000 head of cattle over a vast area of northeast Nevada and southern Idaho. Private land parcels were mostly restricted to areas that could be irrigated or were springs in strategic locations. John Sparks’ purchase of Gollaher Mountain was one exception to purchasing only irrigable lands. This was one of the rare examples of a rancher obtaining title to his summer rangelands (Young and Sparks 2002).

Jasper Harrell sold his holdings to John Sparks and John Tinnin making them among the largest ranchers in the West. Their cattle empire on the sagebrush/grasslands ranged from Wells to Pilot Peak on the south and to the Snake River on the north. Their range was overstocked with 70,000 head of cattle grazing year round (Young and Sparks 2002).

Many observers recognized that the range was being overgrazed. In 1886 the State legislature was requested to fund research to find ways to seed and restore the range. The newness and the immensity of the ranching industry was without standards for ranchers to gauge the capacity of the sagebrush/grasslands to sustain continued intense utilization. John Clay, a recognized leader of the industry at the time, suggested tightening the credit system as the key to solving the industry’s problems. The idea of range management did not even surface (Young and Sparks 2002).

Rarely does a single climatological event alter the plant and animal ecology or change the social and economic structure of a wide geographical area. However, such a far-reaching and dynamic event was the devastating winter of 1889-90 in the sagebrush/grasslands of western North America. (J. A. Young and B.A. Sparks)

The “white winter” of 1889-1890, marked the first significant change in open grazing practices, and particularly winter grazing in the sagebrush/grasslands. Months of record low temperatures of -40ºF and deep snow caused huge losses of animals dependent upon open range forage and browse. Catastrophic losses of livestock were reported as high as 95 percent. Sparks-Tinnin had branded thirty-eight thousand calves during the 1885 roundup on their Nevada and Idaho holdings. In 1890 they branded only 68 calves (Young and Sparks 2002).

In the spring of 1890, the effect of the enormous winter precipitation was excellent for plant growth. However the impacts of unlimited livestock grazing during the previous two decades had selectively exploited perennial grasses and herbs and the advantageous growing conditions favored the remaining shrubs and woody vegetation. This transition brought about a significant change in the forage resources of the sagebrush/grasslands as the era of unrestricted-grazing left a permanent mark on the landscape, the effects of which are still evident and irreversible in some
places, even with the best management practices available.

Following the disastrous winter of 1889-1890, the need to grow hay for winter feeding was obvious and irrigation became a common practice that resulted in converting terraces and some alluvial sites from shrubs to irrigated meadow and created many stringer meadows preferred by greater sage-grouse for late brood rearing. By 1894, Sparks had about ten thousand acres under irrigation.

Open grazing continued until 1934 with the passage of the Taylor Grazing Act. Over a period of the next twenty to thirty years, Grazing Districts were formalized, State Grazing Boards were established, and grazing allotments with specific forage allocations were adjudicated, usually to the current land users.

In the 1940’s the historic land ownership pattern changed again in the Plan Area. Divisions and parceling of smaller individual ranches occurred that are representative of the current ownership pattern.

President Franklin D. Roosevelt closed the remaining vacant federal lands to acquisition with only approximately six percent of the available public domain (excluding railroad lands) transferred into private ownership in Nevada. With no legal way to obtain title to the acres of rangeland necessary to sustain an economic livestock operation, the best feasible option was to continue using the public lands. As rangeland survey information became available and the science of rangeland ecology and management advanced, the BLM adjusted permitted use (also called “preference”) to balance livestock grazing with annual forage production, physiological needs of the plants, and wildlife needs.

Current levels of permitted public land grazing have been reduced significantly over the past several decades. Reductions from 1980 to 1999 were estimated at 44,311 AUMs in the Elko BLM District (RCI 1994). At that time the AUM reduction was estimated to result in an economic loss of $2.4 million per year.